Project Aphelion Solo Play #005: The Proper Channels

In the last post, I’ve generated the Scenario I’m going to be playing today. If you’ve missed it, it’s here. If you’ve missed the whole joy so far, it’s best if you start at the beginning and character generation.

This time, we’re going on an adventure!

As a reminder, the main objective (henceforth known as Main Task, or MT) is to get Tomorrow a meeting with Henequen, an art-dealing dragon who has more information about Tomorrow’s missing sister than was willing to share a couple months back. Tomorrow has decided to go about it in an only slightly sleazy way – book herself a meeting as a prospective seller of a valuable art piece used previously in a world-shattering magical ritual. She actually possesses said art piece and she’s reasonably sure she knows what she’s selling. The core objective is to get a deposit on the art piece (1 Payout worth of cred) and make the Henequen’s Faction like her more (3 Payouts worth of Influence) – enough to get the meeting with the dragon scheduled.


Disclaimer

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Basic mechanics

Scenario Rating = 6. This sets the number of marks Tomorrow needs to collect in order to succeed at what she wants to do. This is also the number the Defense needs to reach in order to stop her.

Threat Rating = 2. This sets the ‘extra’ level of complexity in the Scenario, caused by the presence of a R2 Crew of art purveyors. This is also the number of marks the Defense starts with – so they only need to get 4 more to succeed! Tomorrow will need to either go all-in on the Offense or find a way to mitigate the Defense’s abilities to score marks – otherwise she’ll just hear a ‘no’ and that will be the end of the story.

Difficulty = 6 or 5. The basic difficulty for the Scenario is 6, as always – modified by the skills used etc. The difficulty for the social tasks against anybody in Henequen’s Faction, however, equals 10 – Familiarity (5) = 5. Tomorrow has already met the dragon and she’s at neutral level of Familiarity with him, making the task a tiny-little-bit easier than as if she was a total random straight from the street.

Type of Scenario = Chase. It means the MT is at the same time the Finale – there are no side objectives; the moment Tomorrow starts the conversation, it’s already THE conversation. The Finale Scene has a Challenge Rating equal to the Scenario Rating (6) AND it receives extra Resistance equal to Payout (4). That means every time Tomorrow wants to make any progress on the MT, the difficulty is 5 (because of the Familiarity) + 4 (Resistance) = 9 (as always, modified by her skills etc.)! Rolling 9s and 10s on d10 is a much, much different thing than rolling anything from 6 upwards.


Preparations

Tomorrow’s no dummy. She did the legwork, she has already done some snooping, and all of the information of the Scenario Generation process is available to her on the ‘meta’ level. She knows the names and SOPs of the crew working the gallery floors, she knows of their manager, she knows the paygrade of the security guard on the day she wants to visit the gallery.

She has purposefully stayed away from the gallery and any interactions with the Defense Crew, as she plans to cash in on her elven charm: the First Impression positive trait, giving her 2 points of Clout during the first meeting with any person (Clout reduces Resistance, point by point – that’s 2 points of Finale’s Resistance shaven off!).

She has also decided to cash in on the magic – she is a professional magician after all, a licenced freelancer mage with her own magical research business. As all of those things should matter when trying to sell a magical artifact, that means Tomorrow can use her Career (1) positive trait – giving her another point of Clout in the MT.

That, combined with the Driven neutral trait (2 points of Clout if actively pursuing her main life objective of finding her sister), takes care of the extra Resistance and even has 1 point of Clout to spare, in case the Defense makes the job especially hard.

To make the job harder for the Defense (who need to score marks against her), she decides to look the part of a well-off, art-selling magician, investing in Designer Clothes. They provide Resistance in Social tasks, and every point counts! A basic business suit costs 800 cred, starts with 1 Resistance and if I toss in extra 200c, it will be up to 3 Resistance. (Can’t go any higher than that, as R1 designer clothes have only 2 mod slots. The rules for crafting are lovely and balanced, but I don’t have the space to explain it all now.) Just noting the expense of 1000c on a well-tailored business suit, making it harder to give Tomorrow a cold shoulder.

Now, as the matters of Offense and Defense are mostly taken care off, Tomorrow still faces the clear issue of the other side having a huge numerical advantage! Three people in the Defense Crew starting with the goal already achieved in ⅓? Even if they’re separately rolling fewer dice than Tomorrow is, they can still generate more marks through the combining of pools. This can mean only one thing: Tomorrow needs backup. 

She can bribe or convince some of the extras at the gallery to cause some havoc or just pester part of the Defense crew with unending questions, keeping their attention elsewhere – or she can call on her contacts to help in a similar way. In either case, this places a R1 Actor on Tomorrow’s side – meaning 1 dice with skill rating 1, costing her 100c to bribe/call in favor/take her friend for drinks later to say ‘thanks’. Just to be safe (and because I want you to meet them), Tomorrow’s gonna make this a date and invite over to the gallery her best friend and her boyfriend – a magician and a gang lieutenant might come in handy if it’s all a trap and will be more useful than a random bribed extra. That means two R1 Actors, 2 extra dice on Tomorrow’s side, and most importantly – two people able to force Defense to divide their attention and keep them from focusing on the Main Task.

With the deck reasonably stacked (I could stack it more – Aphelion is basically an infinitely crunchy strategy game, after all – but there is a point of overpreparation and analysis paralysis where I just don’t want to end – and I want to play), Tomorrow is ready to start her Scenario.


Let’s do the thing!

Introduction

On a snowy, beautiful day of December 2, Tomorrow and her two ganger friends are going for a lovely afternoon to an art gallery owned by a feathered serpent Henequen. As the gallery is in the Sioux Sector of Denver, Tomorrow lives in Pueblo Sector, and her friends in UCAS Sector (and none of them is even remotely interested in art galleries), it took some convincing and a promise of drinks later, at the expense of 200c.

Tomorrow, in her freshly tailored business suit, has picked the time and date with care, ensuring that the gallery will be busy and the staff spread thin, giving her an extra sliver of chance to push through the overworked assistants on the floor and straight to the manager who makes the decisions. In case the crowd’s not that big, she has brought a crowd of her own. She is also accompanied by an air elemental, invisible but staying on guard in case something terrible happens.

As they enter the gallery, an augmented reality overlay pops up on their commlinks and cybereyes, providing tastefully designed captions to all artworks in the gallery, informing them about the route to the facilities and the position of the clerks in case they had any questions. Quiet tones of music drown the hushed conversations of the people milling about – about ten of them. Tomorrow gently pulls her friends towards the corner furthest from the assistants and pretends to look around the place. Lillian Friese, a dark-haired magician in her mid-20s, is not smoking, for once – instead, she’s looking with fake interest at an art nouveau statue in front of her. Adam Wheeler, a man with as many talents as his extensive skillwires can load (that is to say: many), keeps a blank face and refuses to remove his sunglasses.

‘Lil, I need you on the young-un duty,’ says Tomorrow, pulling out a folder from her purse, containing the information about the artifact she wants to sell. ‘He seems like an easy target for your feminine wiles.’

Friese, whose feminine wiles usually consist of summoning elementals and raining fire at opposing gangs, just grins and pushes the hair out of her face. ‘Sure, I’ll do my best. But you owe me big time.’

‘Adam…’

‘Roger that, I’m on the feminine wiles duty for the older one.’ Wheeler looks across the room, searching for the tall man in the crowd. ‘I’ve already slotted a chip with art history. I’ll be an educated pain in the ass.’

‘Thanks, babe. If you need help, just toss some cash at a bystander to cause a mess – I’ll pay you back.’

‘Oh, you totally will. With interest.’ Friese shrugs and turns away, plotting a course towards William Cisneros, the younger of the clerks.

‘Good luck,’ adds Wheeler and finds his way to John Gonzales.

‘Yup. Easy money,’ quips Tomorrow as soon as her friends are out of sight.


Stats
ActorRatingStamina PoolPhysical InitiativePhysical ActionsMorale PoolMental InitiativeMental ActionsDice Pool
TomorrowN/A8428423-5 (Attrib)
Friese/
Wheeler
12114111/1/1
John/
William
24214212/1/1
Cynthia36326323/2/1
Security36326323/2/1

As this is a social scenario, the basic interval is 1 minute – that means, one turn lasts 1 minute. Within that time, all Actors will perform their actions and do whatever they must. The stats of non-essential Actors depend on their ratings and Tomorrow’s depend on her attributes. If Tomorrow did not go with a divide-and-conquer approach, she’d have against herself a total dice pool of 7 (3 from Cynthia, 2 from John, and 2 from William). Now, if her plan works the way she wants, she’ll only have Cynthia to deal with, which should offset the ‘one-third already there’ advantage of the Defense team.

The order of initiative:

  1. Tomorrow
  2. Cynthia & Security
  3. John & Williams
  4. Friese & Wheeler

Execution

Even though Tomorrow is first on the initiative order, she can gain nothing by rushing in – she needs her friends to engage John and William first. She’s not hiding in any way and isn’t doing anything suspicious, so whether Thomas the Security Guard takes note of her or not, doesn’t matter – unless it’s all an Aztechnology trap and the silent alarm went off the moment she has walked in! I don’t want to know, so I will not be rolling for this now. I will, however, take note of how much time has passed – at Turn 15, the delayed scene of Reinforcements may or may not happen. Maybe the whole thing is a trap, maybe the guard is just one person paid off by Aztech, maybe an unrelated group of shadowrunners decides to rob the place, maybe there’s literally nothing suspicious – in any case, Tomorrow just doesn’t have the whole night to pull it off. Either she closes the deal in 15 minutes, or she risks something unexpected to happen.


Turn 1

Still, Tomorrow decides to skip the first turn..

Security, Cynthia, John & William, as they have not been engaged, go about their merry ways, keeping a healthy life-work balance and not expending any pools that they cannot immediately regain.

Friese approaches William, asking him kindly about the details of a painting on the wall. She only has one mental action to use and rolls 1 dice against difficulty of 5 (6 – skill of 1) – with a 6, she succeeds and engages John in a conversation – she might not be the best liar, but she’s good enough to pretend she’s interested in buying something. She has also used 1 of her Morale points, leaving herself at 1 out of 2.

On the other side of the room, Wheeler starts pestering John about minutiae of one digital sculptor’s career path. With 1 dice and difficulty of 5, he scores a 10 and clears out the field for Tomorrow. He also uses up 1 of the 2 available Morale points – they can stall the assistants, but not for long!


Turn 2

So far, so good. With the coast clear and the assistants engaged, Tomorrow cuts a beeline to the counter, behind which Cynthia dwells. Knowing the possible time pressure and expecting Cynthia to stall if this is a trap, Tomorrow goes all in. Introducing herself and spinning a short tale about all the assistants being currently occupied, she leans over the counter, looking at the older lady from the amazing, charismatic, highly likable vantage point of a young and pretty elf magician. With a pleasant smile she mentions that she’s a mage and has a valuable piece of magic-related art that she’d love to show to Henequen. With a business card of a magical researcher pushed towards Cynthia, Tomorrow runs a Con task, cashing in on all her carefully prepared advantages: First Impression, Career, Driven, and a cute business suit. She also uses both her Mental actions on this attack, reducing difficulty by 1 more point, to really drive the point home.

Rolling 4 dice (her Wit) against the difficulty of 2 (5 from Familiarity, +4 Resistance of the Finale, -2 First Impression Clout, -2 Driven Clout, -2 from Con skill, -1 for combined action. The extra -1 from Carrer does nothing, as Clout can only remove Resistance and cannot reduce the difficulty any further).

With 1, 4, 6, and 10, she scores 3 marks in the Main Task, putting herself ahead of Defense right now. She has also spent 1 of her 8 Morale Points. MT for the Offense: 3, for the Defense: 2

With Tomorrow doing nothing illegal, it’s unlikely that the Security Guard gets involved – even if there’s a plot brewing, he’d probably do something else than direct apprehension, so I’ll skip his turn until a security intervention is warranted. 

That leads us to Cynthia. She’s obviously used to clients coming in and proposing business, even if they usually get filtered through her assistants. It was a busy day, though, and her crew is clearly tied up in conversations with other clients. She’s a purveyor of artworks, so she’s unlikely to straight-up refuse; she will, however, use her Primary Creative Focus to inquire about the artwork. How she goes about it, depends on her Approach – a step I skipped for funsies and surprises in the Scenario Generation process. Let me quickly roll 3d10, pick the median and check what mood she’s in today. With a 3, 8, and 10, she’s at 8: balanced defense. This means she will focus on protecting her Main Task (do not let a random chick book a meeting with the boss) instead of scoring marks against the opposition (defense), and she will be doing it by preserving her actions and resources, because it’s been a long day and there’s still many hours left until the closing time (balanced). This is great news for Tomorrow who went with a quick-paced, all-in aggressive approach. Should the dice decide otherwise, she could be met with the same.

However, Cynthia is just going to do her job. She’s not there to beat this young magician into submission or turn her away just like that (or maybe she’s stalling) – instead of saying ‘no’ right away, she’ll use her knowledge of art history (her Primary Focus) to check if the claim has any validity to it, trying to reduce Tomorrow’s marks. Rolling 3 dice, against the difficulty of 6 (standard 6 – skill 3 + Tomorrow’s pretty business suit with Resistance of 3), she gets 6, 6, and 8 – 3 marks that completely wipe out Tomorrow’s progress. Looks like the photos in the folder might not be enough to get that meeting! Cynthia’s also at 5 out of 6 Morale Points.

John and William, as this is their job, are engaged in conversation with their respective pains in the butts. They have no reason to do anything else – but it’s also their job to notice that Tomorrow’s bothering their boss, so each of them will run a Perception task (which does not belong to their Social/Creative Focuses, so they only have 1 dice and skill 1 for it) with their sole Physical Action, rolling 1 dice against difficulty of 8 (6 – Skill 1 + Resistance 3 of Tomorrow’s suit). With a 7 and a 9, John fails and William succeeds, but both their Actions are gone, and their Stamina Points are down to 3 out of 4. Whether they’ll cut the conversations short next turn, remains to be seen!

Friese and Wheeler continue their efforts to keep the pestering going. They are not a part of the Finale Scene as they don’t contribute to the Main Task. Instead, they are engaged in what is called a Scene On The Fly – an improvised thing happening during the main plot. That means they don’t have to worry about the extra Resistance of the Finale – all they’re doing is keeping two Defense Actors from joining the Finale, not helping Tomorrow win directly

However, they can’t just repeat what they did previously, as it would take them down to 0 Morale and removed from the encounter until they have some time to recover – that is, they’d run out of stalling ideas and had to come up with some new mischief. Instead, they’re going to pace themselves, each Taking a Breath (a Physical Action costing no Stamina) to try and regain some Morale. 1 dice and difficulty of 5 (6 – skill 1). With a 4 and a 8, Friese fails and Wheeler succeeds and regains his spent Morale Point. Friese has no choice but to keep her conversation going as she runs out of stupid questions; with a 10, she wastes some more of William’s time, but her Morale Pool drops to 0 – there’s nothing more she can do until she succeeds on Taking a Breath and gets some more ideas. Wheeler fares better at keeping his wits about him, but fails at making the conversation. At Morale Pool of 1, he gets all his questions answered and the chat with John comes to a close.


Turn 3

Not good, not good! The turntables are turning and Tomorrow does not like her chances. With one Mental Action she orders her bound elemental, Steven, to cause a distraction, keeping the assistants away (the elemental is R2, so it will work on the same initiative as John and William; before them, as it’s technically a Player Character). This costs her another Morale Point (6/8). With her second Mental Action, Tomorrow doubles down on the Offense, this time pulling the magical strings – explaining in details the powerful magical ritual that surrounded the art piece she wants to sell, dropping the name of Howling Coyote and Great Ghost Dance in a scenic whisper. Using Sorcery and Logic as bases for this attack, she rolls 5 dice against the difficulty of 2, scoring beautiful 5 marks with a 2, 4, 5, 7, and 9. This gets her to MT for the Offense 5, MT for the Defense: 2 and 5 points in the Morale Pool. Not taking any chances and out of Mental Actions, Tomorrow also uses Agility (Fitness) to physically move herself into Cynthia’s office – she has no skill, but she’s smart enough to be graceful – and rolling 5 dice against the difficulty of 6 (6 +2 Resistance of the Hardpoint equal to Threat Rating, -2 from Driven; the Hardpoint is not a part of the Finale, so it doesn’t get extra Resistance), she scores 3 marks towards overcoming the hardpoint of Cynthia’s office – 3 more and she at least gets to talk to the woman not through the counter. Once she’s in, maybe she’ll at least learn something. That brings her to 7/8 Stamina. The last Physical Action is Taking a Breath: with 3 (Toughness) dice against the difficulty of 6, she scores 2 marks and gets her pools back to Stamina: 8, Morale: 7.

By now, Cynthia can clearly see that the client just doesn’t want to go away. As her approach dictates, she’ll focus on making Tomorrow’s success impossible – at least until her assistants arrive and take the problem off her hands. She’ll spend both Mental Actions on it, reducing the difficulty by 1. With 3 dice and difficulty of 5, she scores just 1 mark, though, putting the counter at Offense: 4, Defense: 2, and herself at 4/6 Morale. She has no reason to take a Physical Action, as the client still stays on the client’s side of the room.

Now, Steven the Elemental has been sent out with a task of causing havoc. As a R2 elemental, he has 2 dice and skill 2 on everything that makes sense for an air elemental and 1 dice and skill 1 on everything else. Conveniently, air elementals have access to the Accident power, and Steven is going to use just that against John, who has already finished his conversation with Wheeler and is probably going to do something untowards Tomorrow’s goals. With 2 dice and difficulty of 4, Steven scores 1 mark and causes John to trip over his legs and end up prone on the gallery floor – whether he gets up or not, he won’t be assisting his boss this turn.

John lands on his face and while he gets up quickly, he’s most likely to spend the time and his Action assuring the crowd he’s perfectly alright and nothing bad has happened. He succeeds with 1 mark and pushes away all the hands trying to help him. William is still tied by Friese’s previous attempt at conversation but he closes it as he sees John and will most likely spend his next turn trying to check on his coworker, like a decent (or pretending to be decent) person would.

Friese is out of Morale, so she can’t do anything until she gathers her wits; with a Take a Breath action, she gets a 4 and sadly still fails, forfeiting the turn and probably shrugging with a bored ‘I did what I could’ expression. Wheeler Takes a Breath as well, hoping to replenish his Morale Pool, but he fails with a 1 and decides to keep his remaining point until the next turn, as John has just fallen on the floor out of a sudden. 


Turn 4

Back to Tomorrow. The gallery is in chaos, with an air elemental tripping people and the general upheaval. Tomorrow’s Raven mentor spirit is pleased, which I imagine has no mechanical benefit, but she likes keeping him amused. There’s probably a faint feeling of amusement at the back of her head as she tries to move further into Cynthia’s office. With a roll of 5 dice and scored 4 marks (to a total of 7 against CR of 6), she’s through without an invitation (yay! That means she has access to the Control Module – and also, that it’s going to take the assistants at least an extra minute to get to her as she’s in another module now). With one Mental Action she continues tiring Cynthia out with arcane mumbo-jumbo, cashing in on another 4 marks, bringing her total to 8. While it is technically higher than the 6 she needs to win, she needs to keep herself at 6 or above until the end of the interval, which allows Cynthia and the assistants to respond and counteract. It’s not a firefight where one opponent just gets shot – it’s a social scenario and unless both sides are convinced and agreed, it’s just not over. Knowing well that Cynthia is trying to stall her more – confirming her suspicions about the trap – Tomorrow just hopes to close the deal right here and now, spending her second Mental Action and a second Morale Point (bringing her to Stamina 7, Morale 5) to double-down with a Con of the artifact being held in a secure, well-guarded location. Who knows, if they believe her that it’s valuable and real, maybe they’ll at least not use lethal force. She scores 3 more marks towards the Main Task, bringing the total to Offense: 11, Defense 2. Let’s see if she manages to keep herself above the water, as she uses her last Physical Action to Take a Breath and regains 2 points of Stamina (to 8) and Morale (to 7).

Cynthia has obviously noticed she’s losing the conversation. The artifact looks legit, and the young magician is definitely charming and forthcoming with information. Cynthia herself doesn’t have the magical knowledge to find any problems with the data shown. She’s an artist herself, though, and she can see that from that standpoint, the artifact looks rather poorly. However, her ‘balanced defense’ approach to life dictates to not overextend herself. She will gently question the magician with 3 dice, scoring 0 marks, and makes them both tea, Taking a Breath and trying to replenish her half-way depleted Morale Pool (where she regains 1 Point).

Steven the Elemental does what he was told before, and moves with an Accident power against the second assistant, and with an 8, succeeds with 1 mark, making a passer-by client to spill her coffee over William’s shirt.

With one assistant cleaning his shirt listening to heartfelt apologies and another only just extracting himself out of the crowd of people trying to help him up (‘I’m already up,’ he probably says), and with both of them forced to take at least a minute to access their manager’s office (it’s a separate module, connected with a passage!), also both of them having zero logical reason to go and interrupt their boss as she’s having a conversation with a client in her office…

… With all of that we get to the end of the interval and bring the scenario to a successful conclusion!


Scenario Resolution

A couple minutes later and way before the Turn 15, Tomorrow exits the manager’s office with 5 net marks over the Scenario Finale, 1 Payout worth of cred in deposit for the artifact, 3 Payout worth of Influence towards Henequen’s Faction, 4 Rep for succeeding at Payout 4 Scenario, a booked meeting with the dragon (rolling 3d10 for the number of days as a meeting ‘within a month’ makes sense; it will happen in 15 days, on December 17), and a Familiarity with Henequen’s Faction raised by 1 to 6, making all future encounters a bit easier. She made a good impression, drank some tea with Ms. Cynthia, and brought them a possibly very valuable artifact – what’s there not to love about this nice and helpful Sarah James, the Professional Magician? 

The 4 points of Payout also count towards the 100 Payout goal of the Structured Campaign. No matter what happens next, Tomorrow is at 4% completion of the Campaign and making progress towards finding her sister.

Whatever could have happened after 15 minutes, did not happen – the deal was closed before that and this rifle just didn’t go off. But that’s okay, because what we now go to…


Consequences

Life would be boring and predictable if it was all only about succeeding or failing at scenarios. Thankfully, Project Aphelion has my back. There are a lot of possible outcomes of any project or scenario. As always, when the ‘neutral’ resolution is more probable than an exceedingly positive or an exceedingly negative outcome, I roll 3d10 and pick the median. Then, I add my net marks from the Finale to the roll as my reward for doing so well.

Most probably, the scenario was what it was supposed to be – a straightforward booking a meeting with an art-dealing dragon, run through the proper channel of the manager of his art-purchasing crew in an official art gallery. 

Maybe the dragon Tomorrow has met was not Henequen and she’s now going to deal with a completely unknown dragon who’s very interested in the matter of somebody impersonating him.

Maybe it was Henequen alright, but Tomorrow interacting directly and openly is going to raise a suspicion elsewhere, bringing some existing or new Faction into the story and complicating everything.

Maybe… Maybe I’ll just roll.

With an 8, it looks like we’re going to have a twist, y’all. Of the slightly positive variety. To make it more positive, I’ll toss my net marks into it, making it a 10 – a positive outcome of a higher magnitude (total of 6). 3 net marks will get wasted – but hey, they got me to where I wanted to be (yes, I want to be successful, and I like my games exciting.) 

And looking at the proper table…

A Contact asks for help in a Scenario with Payout equal to magnitude. If successful, that Contact gets a Rating promotion.

Well, that’s interesting. Let me just spin it into the narrative…


Wrapping Up

‘Who’s the coolest chick on the block, huh?’ asks Tomorrow rhetorically, raising her glass in a toast for herself.

‘The one by the bar looks rather swanky.’ Friese downs her drink as she eyes a young blonde bartender. 

The Stampede is full, as always on the nights with the band playing. Silly name aside, Fair O’Raspberries are an up-and-coming elven glam rock band who embrace the purported Tír na nÓg roots of the lead singer, and play perfectly decent music. Why did they choose to do it in a very Southern, rancho-themed nightclub, nobody knew.

‘You’re breaking my heart, Lil.’ With a grin, Tomorrow orders another round from the passing drone and makes herself more comfortable. No longer in a business suit and with her long blue hair casting colorful reflections on the metallic dress, she stretches lazily. ‘Still, I love you more than the words can express. At least until the night is over. I reserve the right to rethink it when I’m hungover.’

‘Don’t praise her after midnight,’ says Wheeler. ‘She’ll grow extra demands.’

‘You’re just jealous, man.’ Friese shrugs nonchalantly.

‘Aaaawh,’ coos Tomorrow at the same time Wheeler says: ‘I’m not.’

He laughs and shakes his head at his girlfriend. ‘I just know something you don’t.’

‘Oh?’

‘Not telling.’

‘Suit yourself. I’m pretty sure I can get it out of somebody…’ She narrows her eyes, fixing them on Friese. ‘Lil. Spill.’

‘Waste of good vodka. Better tell me what you’re gonna do with that dragon meeting. It’s not like you got very far in that Hawaii investigation.’

‘Been busy.’ Tomorrow lets the topic slide, for now. ‘I’m gonna do what I told them to do – sell a piece of rock to him. And at least confirm if it was really him at the airport. Because if it wasn’t… I’m sure the real Big Aitch would be interested in knowing that somebody’s pretending to be him.’

‘Risky business. Doesn’t that piece of rock technically belong to a friend of yours? The one with the tail?’

‘That bozo,’ mutters Wheeler into his drink. 

‘Who’s still deathly scared of you, babe. Also, he owes me big time. Several lives worth of debt,’ adds Tomorrow much quieter.

‘Yeah, about that…’ starts Friese and stops as Tomorrow grins and winks at Wheeler.

‘I owe you big time?’ she asks. ‘Spill.’

‘Very big time. Like, you’ll never pay back those two hours of commute unless you agree to help me right here and now.’

‘I’ll think about it,’ says Tomorrow in the most non-committal way possible. ‘What do you want?’

‘I did some research into the Anomaly with one of those Crowley’s lackeys lately,’ says Friese, putting down her drink and slowly wiping the fog off the glass with synthskin-covered fingers of her cyberhand. ‘You know, trying to get to the bottom of that protection charm messing up with measurements and terrain recognition.’

Tomorrow just nods, waiting for her friend to continue.

‘Well, somebody-’ Friese shoots a glare at Wheeler who just smiles innocently. ‘-from the brass thought it could be useful to keep the turf protected and get an upper hand over competition. So my boss has figured-’ Friese’s voice is as spiked with irony as her drink with vodka ‘-I should arrange us something similar, as the gang’s official magician and all that. Apparently, I owe them for the damages to Best Western.’

‘You both do,’ happily agrees Wheeler. ‘Nobody asked you to blow up that penthouse.’

‘Crowley fixed it,’ corrects him Tomorrow, but her heart isn’t really in it. It’s not like she doesn’t want to go back to that chaotic metaplane, this time knowing that the way back is possible. But it isn’t going to take her any closer to Chloe… She sips her drink slowly, weighing her options. There is a chance she’ll get something useful from it…

‘How much you’re paying?’ she asks Wheeler after a while.

‘I got ten kay of discretionary budget for magical improvements and shit from HQ. Get me what I need – or whatever Friese needs to get this spell running in the ‘hood – and you two can split it.’

‘Since when you get magic budgets?’

‘Since you two opened a bloody metaplanar gate in my attic and my bosses don’t want others to claim it.’

‘Fair point.’ Tomorrow bites her lip and finally nods. ‘Deal. But let’s do it reasonably soon, I got a shitload of other work to do. Catch me up on the deets in the reasonable late morning, Lil?’

‘It’s a date,’ agrees Friese, downing her drink as Fair O’Raspberries get back to the stage and the noise soon drowns all attempts at conversation.


Character Advancement

Project Aphelion is a system of all kinds of progression and development. There’s leveling up the career though skills and Deeds, there’s raising the skills and attributes, there’s upgrading the gear, body augmentations, building a network of contacts and leveling up their tiers, there’s influence, there’s learning new action cards, there’s developing your faction to give yourself access to more assets and options on the strategy layer…

For now, though, I’ll keep track of the skills Tomorrow has used in the Scenario – for each Scene in which I used a skill, it gets a tick in one of the corresponding learning boxes. As the Scenario only had one Scene – Tomorrow going straight for the kill – I only get to mark one box for each of the skills used. Once I have enough boxes ticked (equal to my current skill level), I have a chance to learn something new – while it’s easy to pick up new skills, raising them high becomes progressively harder.

In any case, skills used in the Scenario:

  • Con (Wit) 1 box / skill 2
  • Sorcery (Logic) 1 box / skill 3
  • Agility (Fitness) 1 box / skill 0

Now, look here – the 1 box in Agility is enough to let Tomorrow learn something, as her current skill level is zero. To learn the skill, she runs an instant task where I roll the associated Attribute (Fitness = Logic = 5) against the basic difficulty of 6 + Resistance equal to the current skill rank. As the skill rank is zero, it’s just a roll of 5d10 against diff. 6, hoping to gather at least 1 mark – 1 mark gets Tomorrow the skill at rank 1, the rest are wasted. Unsurprisingly, I do manage to get that 1 mark. After that Tomorrow needs to spend a number of days in training the skill equal to her new rank – so, run a project on Strategy Layer that will take a day. The boxes in Agility are now resetted, leaving Tomorrow with an Agility (Fitness) 1 skill (for shits and giggles, I’ll pick up a specialization in dance for that. Tomorrow likes to dance) and a small progress in Con and Sorcery. She’ll pick up where she left off in the next Scenario if she uses any of those skills again (and let’s not kid ourselves, she will.)

Career-wise, I get to add 1 to the ‘Control Spirits’ Deed for Steven, and +4 to my total Rep counter for succeeding at a Scenario with Payout 4. Tomorrow did not come up with any new spells, didn’t investigate any magical mysteries, didn’t finish the scenario through magic or spirits, so those Deeds all stay at zero.

I haven’t made any decisions about more gear or training yet – but with this step, the First Scenario comes to a close, and we’re getting back to The Grand Strategy of the Strategy Layer.


Coming soon

We’ll get to the strategy in the next blog post. I need to come up with a plan for the next Scenario and schedule all projects I want Tomorrow to run before her meeting with Henequen. Also, Tomorrow needs to unwind with her friends a bit.

Read on!

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